Friday, April 5, 2013

Persecution



The persecution complex has always been a part of Armstrongism as it has with fundamentalists for decades,particularly here in the United States.  Ever since my mother joined the church in the late 50's it was all I heard for the next 40 some years.  It continues on to this day in almost every single one of the splinter groups.  False prophet Thiel and false apostle Malm both shout this from the moutnain tops.

Because the Church of God was so unique it was constantly being persecuted throughout the ages.  First it was the Romans, then the Catholics and then the Protestants. It was and is still easy to find the boogeyman to scare people with.

In the 1960's in the Church the book, Foxes Book of Martyrs was widely read and preached from.  Every church library and most members had the book.  It was required reading for the youth in my church area. The stories described in it were things that we might ultimately face for not keeping birthdays or Christmas.

Then there was the absurd silliness from Rod Meredith about invading German armies that were going to imprison the nation  and hang people on meat hooks to torture them.  Who can forget the windbag Gerald Waterhouse and his incredibly stupid 4 hour sermons on torture, martyrdom and persecution.

Sermons were preached, booklets written, articles were in the Plain Truth, Good News and Tomorrows World telling about the upcoming persecution.  It was a great scare tactic to keep the members under control and fearful.  Being fearful of losing ones salvation had a stranglehold over the church and was a great weapon of intimidation.

Here is an article that will make you think twice about many of the beliefs were brainwashed with.  While I may  not agree with everything in the article it certainly brings up a lot of good points to consider.  I also agree that there was intense persecution at time of Christians and many were certainly killed.  The stories of the Lombard's and Waldenses in the Piedmont regions of Europe are legendary, even though none of these people were ever Church of God members or remnants of the "truth once delivered."

Here is book to shake up some of that persecution complex:

The Death of Jesus and the Rise of the Christian Persecution Myth

For Christians, the crucifixion is the event that changed everything. Prior to the death of Jesus and the emergence of Christianity most ancient people interpreted oppression, persecution, and violence as a sign that their deity was either irate or impotent. The crucifixion forced Jesus’s followers to rethink this paradigm. The death of their leader was reshaped as triumph and the experience of persecution became a sign of elevated moral status, a badge of honor. The genius of the Jesus movement was its ability to disassociate earthly pain from divine punishment. As a result Christians identified themselves as innocent victims; they associated their sufferings with those of Jesus and aligned the source of those sufferings with the forces that killed Jesus. From the very beginning, victimhood was hardwired into the Christian psyche.

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With the exception of the Great Persecution of Diocletian (AD 303-305), when Christians were indeed actively persecuted, it is difficult to find any examples of Roman emperors behaving as Christians typically portrayed them. Apart from this comparatively brief period, and an even briefer one during the reign of Valerian in 257-58, Roman emperors never targeted Christians for attack. At the beginning of the second century, the emperor Trajan actually stipulated that Christians were not to be sought out. Roman emperors simply don’t appear to have been that interested in Christians. For most of the first three centuries of their existence Christians flourished: they held lofty political positions, and were so comfortable under the Romans that they even constructed a prominent church across the road from the imperial palace in Nicomedia.

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Given that the Roman evidence for persecution is so thin, the origin of our misunderstandings about the early church must, and does, lie with the early Christians themselves. There are literally thousands of stories of Christians martyrs being brutally tortured and killed, but the overwhelming majority of these were written long after the events they claim to describe. Who is responsible for these misunderstandings about history? And why did they alter the historical record? One of the reasons is the explosion of the cult of the saints, the passion for collecting and displaying holy relics, in the fifth century and beyond.  Everyone wanted a piece of the action and innumerable stories about martyrs were fabricated to support local churches and to attract pilgrims to particular towns.


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

28 comments:

Anonymous said...

Excellent....DD

Lake of Fire Church of God said...

No2HWA said, "In the 1960's in the Church the book, Foxes Book of Martyrs was widely read and preached from. Every church library and most members had the book. It was required reading for the youth in my church area. The stories described in it were things that we might ultimately face for not keeping birthdays or Christmas."

MY COMMENT - A very true statement. In the Washington D.C. Baltimore, Maryland WCG congregations, I remember sermons preached on the coming persecution and the Fox's Book of Martyrs was read from the pulpit. Our church libraries had copies, and I do remember reading portions of it in my teenage years.

In hindsight, instead of worrying about invading Germans in January, 1972; worrying about a horrible martyred death as a youngster; and feeling weird and a loner, I should have been enjoying myself in school activities and making friends of my classmates "in the world".

What a bunch of garbage we believed in the 1960s/1970s Worldwide Church of God. Gee thanks Mr. Armstrong!

Richard

Joe Moeller said...

The Jews did plenty of persecution of the First Century Christians.

Joe Moeller
Cody, WY

Anonymous said...

Somehow I wasn’t affected by the persecution addition, but was aware of some of the bizarre things that were circulated. While the things mentioned in the persecution myth are true there is a much larger picture that explains a lot of persecution in the history of the development of today’s Christianity was Christians persecuting Christians.
Much of the so called persecution was within the different factions of Christianity itself. There were at least two periods when the “Church” was more political than religious. The Reformation period was not a peaceful transition.
I do not know what was taught at AC, but from what I hear here it certainly wasn’t anything like the church history I have read. Of course I usually made it point of reading anything that was banned by the church so I could explain why it was banned.
AB

Anonymous said...

Yes Joe, the Jews certainly did plenty of persecution of the first century Christians. Much later on Christians and non-Christians (including atheists) persecuted and murdered other Christians and non-Christians (including atheists) at various times throughout history. So, what's your point?

Velvet said...

"[Foxe's Book of Martyrs] was required reading for the youth in my church area."

That was my experience as well. It was also mentioned on the World Tomorrow program in the early 80s, by Armstrong himself (and later referred to by other presenters after he died).

Also note, professing Christians these days like to play the "Look at all these Martyrs/Saints of God who were killed for OUR faith over the centuries!" when said "martyrs" would likely run screaming in the other direction, from the faith of those who claim them.

Good article, Gary, lots to think about. Thanks!

Velvet said...

"Much of the so called persecution was within the different factions of Christianity itself. There were at least two periods when the “Church” was more political than religious. The Reformation period was not a peaceful transition."

Albert is absolutely correct. Just read any account of how the Anglicans and other Protestants treated the Quakers, or others they deemed "nonconformists/Dissenters" in the 1600s, on both sides of the Atlantic.

Velvet said...

Also required reading in my area was Dugger and Dodd's "True History of the True Religion." Though in the 80s, we were told the volume was a complement to Hoeh's articles in the GN and PT.

Joe Moeller said...

To answer the question posed to me above about "my point".

Yes, it took a while for Romans to persecute the Christian Church, but it had plenty to worry about from the Jewish community prior to that time.

True Christianity has always been under attack. It certainly never was or is easy being a Sabbatarian , and was also very difficult being one in the middle ages in the various small and scattered groups where it was found.

The Dugger and Dodd book is poorly written, and poorly researched. Virtually all modern Sabbath historians dismiss it as amateurish at best. The Waldensians (as a whole) were not Sabbatarians, but can be certainly respected as reformists from the Catholic Church.

There is no unbroken line of "hands laid on" Sabbatarians that can be identified. It DOES however appear that there have always been at least some that have been Sabbath observers somewhere in the world, and history does back this up.

Joe Moeller
Cody, WY

Leonardo said...

Velvet wrote: "Also required reading in my area was Dugger and Dodd's "True History of the True Religion."


But like Joe rightly mentions above, Dugger and Dodds book is pathetically researched. I read it back in 1976 and it had all the signs of a poorly-researched pseudo-history written merely to support various ideological claims.

Joe, there were Sabbath-keepers for a brief period in China in the mid 1800's under the leadership of Hong Xiuquan, who apparently claimed visions of somehow being related to Jesus. The Chinese put a lot of credence in such dreams, even to this day. I remember Dr. Hoeh's article on that. They were called the Tai-ping.

So I assume you're a Sabbath-keeper with UCG, based on what you've written in past comments. Do you know Dr. Rick Sherrod? As far as I know he's still with the UCG, though perhaps he's now with COGWA. He gave a rather weak slideshow presentation once about British-Israelism when I was attending with the UCG here in Colorado back in 1997. Do you currently hold to HWA's claims about the lost ten tribes? I notice that it seems to not get much emphasis these days in the more moderate COG's.

Byker Bob said...

Apparently the author relies mostly on modern historians, and fails to consider Tacitus, Pliny the Younger, Suetonius, or even Eusebius. Domitian and Nero were emperosrs known to have also persecuted Christians and Jews, mercilessly.

Foxes Book of Martyrs was required reading for at least one of the AC "avanced" theology classes, but I never got that far, so never read it. I did, however, read a more contemporary book on the subject, "Those About to Die!" It was as gruesome as anything in Eusebius, believe me.

Knowing what I know, I'd unfortunately have to categorize the book quoted in this post as being similar to holocaust denial, or denial of the Armenian holocaust which had been Hitler's example.

Having said that, the ACOGs largely managed to evade or repel any massive or major persecution, and then to cry over stupid little things like cars being egged, or houses being toilet papered. HWA brought the law down on himself by his own lack of ethics and his fiduciary irresponsibility, and then when the state of California stepped in, claimed that it was Satan attacking God's Church. You can't compare that to the people who persisted in their commitment to Jesus Christ as they had molten lead dropped on them, were boiled in oil, or stretched out on medieval racks.

BB

Corky said...

Yes, the Christian church made up stuff from the beginning of it. The whole thing is just one big lie, so is it surprising that they still make stuff up as they go along?

Just like the book of Mormon, the NT is an invented, cobbled together bunch of fables and nonsense. Just like the story of Joseph Smith and the angel Maroni, none of it ever happened but people choose to believe it did.

Making up stories is what humans are good at, that and organizing.

When organized Christianity went around bragging that all kings and emperors would one day bow down to their god-man, Jesus, some of those kings took offense. They didn't understand that Jesus was love when they were told that Jesus was going to come from heaven with legions of angels to destroy their kingdoms.

They especially didn't like them having clandestine meetings at night when it was against their law for groups to have secret enclaves. How did they know that Christians weren't plotting a rebellion? The Jews were.

Velvet said...

"The Waldensians (as a whole) were not Sabbatarians"

Someone wrote a letter to the present-day Waldensian ministers, and it got posted somewhere (I forget if it was ESN or PT) and they basically confirmed this.

There were a few books written in the 1800s on the Vaudois and the Waldenses (all available on www.archive.org; I can provide a list, if anyone is interested) which also notes the disturbing fact that the Waldensians were also trinitarians.

So, you can definitely drop Waldo and his followers off the list from both Dugger & and Dodd's and Herman Hoeh's "True Histories of the True Church."

Velvet said...

"There is no unbroken line of "hands laid on" Sabbatarians that can be identified. It DOES however appear that there have always been at least some that have been Sabbath observers somewhere in the world, and history does back this up."

Perhaps a bit uncharitable of me to ask, Joe, but are you shilling for the "new" episode of BT with your remark?

Velvet said...

"Velvet wrote: "Also required reading in my area was Dugger and Dodd's "True History of the True Religion."


But like Joe rightly mentions above, Dugger and Dodds book is pathetically researched."

Did I say I endorsed it at all? Although a couple of years ago, I did, I no longer do. My point was simply to verify that both Foxe's Book of Martyrs and Dugger and Dodd were recommended reading, when I was growing up.

So were the Dead Sea Scrolls and Josephus. Though no one I know actually tackled either, many members had copies at home, and there were copies in the congregation's library.

Velvet said...

"Knowing what I know, I'd unfortunately have to categorize the book quoted in this post as being similar to holocaust denial"

Charming, Bob. But you illustrate my first point nicely, that the professing Christians are pushing Foxe's Book of Martyrs just as much as the Church ever did.

No comments, I see, on The Martyr's Mirror, although to be fair there is a considerable amount of overlap between Foxes and the Mennonite volume.

For actual, legitimate, historically recorded martyrs, see here (the account of Nayler's sentence is halfway down the page, under his picture).

Head Usher said...


Joe wrote:
"There is no unbroken line of "hands laid on" Sabbatarians that can be identified."

The thing I don't get about the "laying on of hands" doctrine is, who decides who gets to lay hands on people and have that mean something? If I go around laying my hands on people, it doesn't mean anything, right? Why not? Obviously because nobody laid hands on me. BUT, if there's no unbroken line of "hands laid on" sabbatarians (or otherwise) going back to Jesus, then where's the legitimacy of anyone laying hands on anyone anymore? Why would it mean something more if Herbert laid hands on somebody than if I were to do it?

Never understood that.

Velvet said...

....and Blogger failed to post the links. Again.

For legitimate, historically-recorded martyrs, see Mary Dyer or James Nayler (halfway down the page).

Velvet said...

"BUT, if there's no unbroken line of "hands laid on" sabbatarians (or otherwise) going back to Jesus, then where's the legitimacy of anyone laying hands on anyone anymore?"

Protip, Head Usher: There is none! (By the way, the whole letter is a pretty good read, too.)

Velvet said...

....and Blogger failed to post the links. Again.

For legitimate, historically-recorded martyrs, see Mary Dyer or James Nayler (halfway down the page).

Anonymous said...

People should research the holohoax and get an eye-opener.

Anonymous said...

Soap made from human fat was one big lie, perpetrated by Zionists media moguls who started a war that killed 80 million Christians on both sides.

Anonymous said...

And while your at it, people, also know that the Civil War also was a total fabrication (yep, just a hoax, didn't really happen), as was the American moon landings (all phony, filmed in a secret remote TV studio in Arizona), as well as the September 11 terrorist attacks, which the Bush government actually perpetrated. Alien abductions occur regularly, and Satan and his demons mate with human females to create shape-shifting creatures called Grays and Reptilians which stalk the earth. Also know that Elvis is indeed alive and well.

And if you believe the above, as well as the crock of crap Anonymous posted above, then we need to talk, because I've got some fine swampland down in southern Florida I'd love to sell to you! It's a real bargain! Really, it is!

Byker Bob said...

There is no earth! We're all figments of our own imagination, and everything we could turn to for answers is totally imaginary!

I guess that works for some people, but it just doesn't cut it for me. Rather than being a disposable bi-product of a godless accident, I feel a much greater sense of purpose and hope knowing that we are children of God. It's also nice to have and feel His guidance each day!

BB

Leonardo said...

But Byker Bob, such ignorant gullibility is endemic in Christian fundamentalism, as well as the COG's, not to mention the wacky world of conspiracy theory.

And good luck on those FEELINGS, Bob, though it's just a shame they don't enable the occasional fundamentalists who blog here to be able to articulate their religious assertions very effectively at all. I thought the Spirit of God was supposed to be a spirit of a sound mind, not just something that generates transitory tingly emotions. Seems to have changed it's job description these days, however. Oh well.

Velvet said...

"I thought the Spirit of God was supposed to be a spirit of a sound mind, not just something that generates transitory tingly emotions."

It is. There's a reason Solomon requested wisdom, when he was granted anything he wanted to ask for.

Anonymous said...

vel, you excel at being unclear. As it is you come across as a raging maniac

Anonymous said...

It's easy as pie to be a Sabbath keeper these days. Zero or little "persecution"!
(The Sabbath keepers need to give thanks to a myriad of whack-a-doodle religious beliefs that have made it possible for them to avoid persecution.)